“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together.
It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
Marriage is a sacred institution that signifies the joining of hearts and minds of a man and a woman in a union that is expected to last until death. This institution is most looked forward to by young adults as they desire to share their lives with their “true love”. Let’s pause a bit and look closely at the term “true love”. How true is this love that makes a man do anything to capture the heart of his damsel? Is there such a thing as fake love? What exactly is love in the confines of marriage? How would you define love?
Sometimes, we are confronted with the credibility of our spouse’s profession of love. When two people take vows to cherish and love each other forever, they, at that moment experience a rush of love or feelings that carry them on till a year or so. Research by James Spencer at Brigham Young University (1992) in a longitudinal study measuring marital quality, revealed that universally, romantic love is experienced in the first year of marriage. After this period, the couple is soon faced with the reality of living with a completely different person from a different background with different interests and preferences. Arguments, conflicts and moments of angry outbursts may be common at this period which may question the veracity of the initial love professed at the time of taking solemn vows.
Does this sound familiar? If you are married I’m sure you can accede to the fact that marriage is not always a bed of roses. There are times of “up” and times of “down”. Times to laugh and cry, fight and make up, criticize and encourage, etc.
Based on a research by Campbell, Weiner-Davis, DeMaria, Harrar et al, Chris Garner proposed 5 stages of marriage which are:
1. The Enchantment phase:
This is otherwise known as the honey moon phase. This phase has been researched to last a year or two depending on when children arrive. It is a passion fueled phase with intense focus on attraction. Couples believe that they will live happily ever after much like the fairy tale stories of Cinderella and snow white. Excitement and euphoria characterize this stage and couples usually share similar interests. They can talk for long hours without getting tired. At this stage, all they want is to be together.
2. The Realization phase:
Feelings of euphoria wear off and couples realize how different they are. It is a time of disenchantment where they realize differences that exist between them. Power tussles, arguments and conflict over minor as well as major issues results. Remember the story of a couple who fought over how to squeeze toothpaste? This kind of scenario often occurs at this stage. Would it be sufficient to state that the love that once existed has gone sour?
At this phase, the differences observed are accepted. Each person begins to see the other person and accept him/her without being judgmental; after all it would be difficult to change the other person. Couples at this stage are able to work through the challenges they face.
4. The Commitment phase:
Understanding, peace and harmony are characteristic features of this stage. This is a matured stage of a relationship that exists even when problems and conflicts arise. Couples have learnt to understand themselves and work through whatever comes their way through teamwork and cooperation. Each couple knows about the weaknesses of the other but choose to stay or commit themselves to them based on the strengths they have.
5. The Co-creation phase:
Couples who get to this stage look beyond themselves and extend their oneness to others. They are able to work together in unity to bring about impact in the lives of those around them. They are able to contribute their own quota to society by mentoring young ones and giving back in different ways.
With these 5 stages, how would you define love? Is it primarily the passion that comprises the enchantment stage, the intimacy of acceptance phase or the commitment of the commitment stage? The truth is a combination of all 3. This was proposed by Robert Sternberg in his Triarchic theory of love.
So, love basically is a mix of PASSION, INTIMACY and COMMITMENT.
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